Program to combat lead poison is launched City coalition to train police, parents to detect, prevent childhood hazard

January 21, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

A group that fights lead poisoning said yesterday that it will work with Baltimore police to train children, parents and police officers how to detect and prevent the childhood hazard.

"It's our PAL to PAL program," said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

PAL is an acronym for two organizations. It stands for Parents Against Lead, the original name of the 12-year-old nonprofit coalition, and for the more familiar Police Athletic League.

The training sessions on lead poisoning will begin Feb. 3 and will be phased in over five months at the 27 Police Athletic League centers run by Col. Alvin Winkler.

The initiative, one of several new coalition projects, is designed to improve health and reduce crime, said Norton.

Officials believe many crimes are committed by young people affected by lead poisoning. Recent studies "have proven the direct correlation between childhood lead poisoning and increased rates for children in juvenile delinquency and criminal activity," Norton said.

Inhaling or eating lead adversely affects the central nervous system. In children, it can lead to behavior problems and learning disabilities, lowered IQs, mental retardation and death.

At the news conference, which was attended by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Norton thanked government officials for city and state efforts on lead paint poisoning. But she said much more needs to be done. Schmoke agreed.

Norton said the city must enforce Baltimore City Health Department lead violation notices more vigorously, coordinate city efforts to prevent lead paint poisoning and make people more aware of the dangers.

"Many property owners simply ignore the notices entirely," said Norton, even though they can be subject to misdemeanor charges and fined $500 a day for failing to have lead-based paint removed from the premises.

Schmoke said the city will improve enforcement.

He also pledged that the human services "sub-Cabinet" in his administration will focus on related lead poisoning problems to try to better coordinate health, housing and other services affecting families.

Yesterday's news conference was held at the advocacy group's new headquarters, at 2714 Hudson St. in Canton, which opened in October.

The headquarters has nearly seven times the space of the old offices, at 28 E. Ostend St. The added space is partly used to store lead-reduction materials used in cleaning up homes polluted with lead.

Call 410-534-6447 or 800-370-LEAD to receive free information.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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